Army presses offensive in Maute-held Lanao town

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2016 09:27 AM

MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) pushed into Butig, Lanao Del Sur on Sunday, a day after the Maute Group, a terror organization behind the September bombing in Davao City, occupied Butig's town center.

Military SF-260 trainer aircrafts were seen dropping 150-pound bombs over the town center, where Maute fighters have occupied the municipal hall, national high school and mosque.

The Tactical Command Post in Lanao del Sur has also sent reinforcements to the besieged town.

Troops, after inching towards the frontlines, have also rescued two soldiers who suffered shrapnel wounds.

Maute rebels, meanwhile, have removed the Philippine flag from the town hall and replaced it with that of the Islamic State (ISIS). They hung similar flags on some houses.

The AFP estimated that from 200 terrorists on Saturday, around 300 men armed with grenade launchers are now occupying the town.

The terrorists hail from different parts of Mindanao like Basilan and Maguindanao, most of them returnees to the Islamist group, the military said.

All roads in Butig have been closed to the public. Residents have also evacuated to other municipalities, with the biggest number in Lumbayanague, Lanao del Sur.

Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong earlier said authorities accounted yet for the total number of evacuees but are set to deliver the first batch of relief goods on Sunday morning.

The military in June captured Camp Darul Iman in Butig, said to be the final stronghold of the Maute terrorist group. Reports say the terrorist reoccupied Butig on Saturday after Armed Forces launched a major offensive against them.

Last October, authorities also arrested three Maute group members who were allegedly behind the deadly September 2 blast in Davao City.

Though no direct link has yet been established with ISIS, the Maute group’s alleged leaders, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, have already pledged allegiance to the terrorist group and even use their name and symbol.

Butig is the hometown of the Maute brothers.